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Is GOD the Author of Ceremony?
Good News Magazine
April 1961
Volume: Vol X, No. 4
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Is GOD the Author of Ceremony?
Herman L Hoeh   
Church of God

Born: 1928
Died: November 24, 2004
Ambassador College: 1947
Ordained: December 20, 1952
Office: Evangelist

Is it proper to take photographs during religious services, baptisms, or marriage ceremonies? Here is an answer we all need to understand.

   IS IT proper to have flashing light bulbs, strob lights, tripods and general disturbance in order to take photographs during an annual holy day at the Feast of Tabernacles? or on any other festivals or the weekly sabbath?
   When a minister is speaking from the pulpit, or in an ordination ceremony, should photographs be taken? Is this showing proper respect to the office in which God has placed that minister?
   And what about baptisms and marriage ceremonies? While the minister reads the ceremony, when the couple kneel, or when one is buried in the waters of baptism, should pictures ever be taken?

God's Decision

   The 1961 Ministerial Conference had to take up this question. It has been commonplace for members to take snapshots especially on the closing day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Usually individuals just have forgotten to take them earlier and have thought they had to do so that day. Often, during religious services throughout the week brethren have come near the platform to obtain a candid shot of the service.
   Is this proper?
   What does God say?
   First, we must come to realize that GOD is the Author of CEREMONY. He performed the first marriage ceremony in Eden when he brought to the man the woman who was to be his wife. Would it have been proper to interrupt Him to obtain a candid shot? Since God's ministers are divinely authorized to perform the same ceremony today, is it showing proper respect TO THE CEREMONY GOD ORDAINED to distract the guests for a candid shot?
   In religious services would you interrupt Jesus Christ, if He were personally speaking, in order to photograph Him? Or if He were performing a baptism?
   Of course not!
   Then would we be showing proper respect to God by disturbing a religious service He ordained in order to take a photograph?
   Most people take for granted that it would be improper to interrupt a funeral. It seems that few, however, have thought about marriages and holy days God ordains. People appear to show more respect for the dead than for the Everliving God. Even in worldly sanctuaries it is generally forbidden to take photographs during religious ceremonies. Only after the ceremony is over and the participants step out of the sanctuary do the camera-men bustle about.
   Should not we God's very own people have at least this much respect for our Maker?
   Recognizing God as the Author of the marriage ceremony, and of religious services, and recognizing our responsibility under Jesus Christ to teach and instruct His Church, we have had to make known God's decision in this matter. At the 1961 Ministerial Conference it was decided to explain it through the pages of "The Good News" so that all the brethren, no matter where scattered, would understand it.

When Pictures May Be Taken

   There is nothing wrong with taking pictures. But there is a proper time and a proper place to take them.
   Many young couples have been embarrassed at a wedding when unauthorized pictures are taken. This should not be. If the bridegroom and the bride want to have pictures taken, it is to be done AFTER AND APART FROM THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY. That is the only proper respect for the ceremony God ordained, and it is respectful to both participants and guests, who have come to witness the ceremony, not the cameraman!
   No one should take pictures of religious services ON ANY HOLY DAYS. Take your pictures on week days.
   However, during religious services on a week day at a festival there are occasions when pictures may be taken. It is permissible to photograph the Ambassador Chorale, individual singers or groups of singers or a minister when announcements only are being read when PROPER PRIOR AUTHORIZATION IS OBTAINED. These functions are not expressly a duty of the office a minister occupies. It is respect TO THE OFFICE that God has established, which we must recognize.
   We want you to have the opportunity to take personal mementos of the Festival home with you. But it is only proper that if a program is being presented to the entire congregation, the audience should not be distracted by dozens of unauthorized individuals attempting to take photographs. It will be necessary here-after, that any photographs taken during services in the Tabernacle Building be authorized by designated personnel at the Information Booth. These designated individuals have the authority to limit the number of people taking pictures that the audience will not be unnecessarily distracted and also to designate the areas from which photographs may be taken. Be sure you check with them before any photographs are taken within the Tabernacle during weekday services. Pictures may be taken before and after such services only when no congestion or confusion would result.
   Of course, when no religious services or other programs are being presented, it is quite all right to take candid shots in the Tabernacle of your friends and relatives whom you may not have seen for the past year. We encourage you to do this but be sure you do not wait until the last Holy Day. Your candid shots are better taken outside and on days other than Sabbaths. Pictures at baptism should not be taken without approval of the participants and then only apart and prior to the ceremony.

Lesson of Experience

   Experience has taught us that most people do not take good photographs of special programs presented for everyone at the Feast. To make it possible for you to have every picture you want, at far less than the cost of film and development, and to have the right kind of photograph that will be a credit to the Church when you show it to friends, we prepare each year The ENVOY.
   During the festivals certain competent men on The ENVOY staff will be designated to take pictures of those particular things you would all like to see. They will be able to take them from the right position at the right time. In this way the audience will not be distracted by dozens of people, with tripods, flash bulbs and other paraphernalia, stumbling over each other in order to get a single picture for themselves only. We want you all to have hundreds of pictures, and The ENVOY is the most satisfactory way we find to enable thousands of you to each have the photographs you cherish.
   So let us hereafter show the kind of respect to God that we should. He is the author of ceremony, not of confusion. All of us can have every photograph we desire, but we must do it orderly. Be sure to remember this whenever we assemble at God's annual festivals.

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Good News MagazineApril 1961Vol X, No. 4
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